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GR Red Project adds second Madison Square office near mobile unit

Over the past three years, the Grand Rapids Red Project has seen tremendous growth. 

"We've doubled our annual revenues and our budget with grant funding from the state and Network 180 for our programming," says Brian Kelley, development and volunteer coordinator with GR Red Project, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to improving health, reducing risk, and preventing HIV." 

During that same time, GRRP's staff has grown from one to eight, and as a result, the organization is increasing its presence in downtown Grand Rapids, expanding its offices to include a second location at 401 Hall St. SE in the Madison Square neighborhood. 

"It's great location for us to be for the community we serve and services we provide," Kelley says. "It's a current location for our mobile unit, which is there once a week."

Kelley says a few years ago, GR Red Project did an assessment of community needs to determine the location for the mobile unit, which will now be able to service another downtown location yet to be determined. 

GR Red Project will keep its current office at 343 Atlas SW and begin moving part of its staff into the expanded offices throughout this month. 

The 1,500-square-foot space at 401 Hall St. SW is fittingly painted a fire engine red, with space inside to create four closed office spaces and one large community room, geared at being visible and accessible for those facing issues that are still very taboo in most communities. 

Kelley says creating a safe, accessible place where people can come find help free of judgment is important to the overall mission of GR Red Project and important to the overall health of the communities they serve. 

"Having a space to do it makes it a lot easier and provides those opportunities," he says. "It's important for us to be in these communities and to have a presence in each of the different areas of Grand Rapids to build those relationships with individuals." 

For more information, visit www.redproject.org. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of  Brian Kelley

LowellArts! plans for expansion into new gallery, workshop, performance space in downtown Lowell

In order to accommodate an increased demand for classes and gallery space in the Lowell arts community, the organization LowellArts! has purchased two properties in downtown Lowell with plans to renovate the space and reopen as a new gallery, workshop and performance space. 

"I would say, as far as our gallery space goes, right now we have possibly about 1,000 square feet in our room for hanging and displaying artwork," says Loraine Smalligan, executive director of LowellArts! "The new space has two times the space and there is a demand for us to have more room for displaying work." 

Since its inception in the late 1970s, LowellArts! has been located at 149 S. Hudson St., but Smalligan says the current space has little visibility from the street, with a lack of on-site parking and small meeting and classroom spaces that the community has outgrown.  

Located on the corner of Broadway and Main St. in historic downtown Lowell, the new space at 221 and 223 W. Main St. will give LowellArts! double the classroom size and allow them to open up new classroom programming with a focus on youth. 

"We really want to focus on youth classes to begin with," Smalligan says, adding that LowellArts! will also continue to add more adult classes, but since they already have an additional venue in downtown Lowell for adults, building more youth classes is currently the priority.

Right now, Smalligan says LowellArts! is only focused on developing and renovating the first floor, working with architects at Mathison I Mathison to open up the connecting wall between the two former retail locations and create a large gallery space. 

The modern update of the historic space will also include a new flexible, modular stage area for music and theater performances and, eventually, youth theater classes as well, with seating for approximately 50 audience members. 

"We don't have a performance venue that we own specifically," says Smalligan. "We use different venues in Lowell and sometimes it's a real challenge to get those to work out the way we want them to." 

Smalligan says in order to cover costs for purchasing the building and completing renovations, LowellArts! plans to launch a capital campaign that she expects to last about a year.  

"The earliest construction can begin on the interior is next summer and our goal would be to move in as soon as possible," she says, shooting for a grand opening event sometime in mid-2016. 

"The community is so enthusiastic about everything related to the arts," Smalligan says. "We want to nurture that interest and grow it so that the arts remain a vibrant part of life as well as the economy in this region." 

For more information, visit www.lowellartsmi.org or click here to see plans for the new space online. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor 
Images courtesy of LowellArts! 

DGRI adds more options for downtown Grand Rapids bicyclists with new public repair stations

Last weekend Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. installed four of five new public bicycle repair stations in select locations throughout downtown, a key priority for 2015 as selected by the organization's citizen-led Alliance for Livability and part of the organization's larger efforts to create a more walkable, bikeable downtown core.  

"It follows an outgrowth of our bike-friendly investments," says DGRI Mobility Manager Bill Kirk, who cited new bike parking on the sidewalk and street as the catalyst ushering in a new age of bike-ability in downtown Grand Rapids. "It just adds another option to people who are biking for commuting purposes or recreation in general, the resources for basic repairs, that you can do that without going to find a bike shop."

The stainless steel, public repair stations include a stand to hold the bicycle, basic bike repair tools, and an air pump to inflate tires to give cyclists a quick and convenient way to perform basic bike repairs and maintenance such as changing flat tires, making brake adjustments or fixing a derailleur.

Kirk says each station also includes scannable QR codes, which link to an instructional webpage via the user's mobile device, with additional instructions for using the repair tools for those with less experience. 

"We did a little bit of research on all of the different types of stations," says Kirk, adding that they eventually settled on the model manufactured by Bike Fixation, which at a total project cost of $6,800 was purchased through local vendor Cycle Safe, with funding provided by the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority. "Based on what we found in other cities these seemed to be the most reliable, most durable."

Chosen by DGRI's Alliance for Livability to accommodate both recreational and commuter cyclists, the location of the last bicycle repair station has yet to be decided, but the four installed last weekend are located outside of Founder's Brewing Co., the Downtown Market, the Seward Avenue Bike Facility at Lake Michigan Drive and the corner of Louis St. and Monroe Ave.

"We view it as a piece of the whole puzzle as it relates to bike friendliness," Kirk says. "We're just happy to offer another way for people to use bikes in the city."

For more information, visit www.downtowngr.org or www.bikefixation.com/products/public-work-stand. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Bill Kirk/Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. 

Recycled building materials retailer Odom RE-USE gives back to Well House April 29-May 2

After joining the Grand Rapids market last summer, the reusable building material provider Odom RE-USE is leveraging its own resources to bring much needed resources to others, announcing a three-day fundraising promotion in partnership with the nonprofit organization Well House.  

From April 29-May 2, Odom RE-USE will donate 20 percent of its profits to Well House, which has used recycled building materials from Odom RE-USE to renovate downtown homes that offer those facing homelessness and addiction an immediate, affordable housing solution. 

"I have a lot of admiration for the mission and the style (Well House) goes about doing it. I really respect it a lot," says Bruce Odom, owner of the sustainably minded home improvement retailer at 1029 4 Mile Rd. NW. "They approach homelessness and even addiction problems in a dignified manner." 

His business, which salvages old building materials for resale to both commercial and residential clients, expanded into Grand Rapids from Traverse City last summer and he says the fundraiser is just one of three he has planned for this year – a product of his emphasis on connecting with community and approaching both natural and human resources with respect.  

"I think what we do in our businesses at Odom is have a lot of respect for natural resources and (Well House) has a lot of respect for human resources, so those two pools of resources come together here," he says. "They're also a local organization – the executive director lives across the street from me. It's really important to be connected to community and to participate in your community."

Odom RE-USE has also supplied reusable building materials to other local businesses in Grand Rapids, such as the upcoming Alger Heights restaurant The Old Goat, which built many of its dining tables from recycled wood salvaged by Odom RE-USE. 

Well House Executive Director Tami VandenBerg says the fundraiser will help with renovation of affordable downtown homes for an underserved population. With six finished homes currently occupied and two nearing completing, she says Well House has secured grant funding to purchase 3-5 more homes in 2015 and will "keep moving forward" from there. 

"We can't take on too many that are vacant, but the demand is very, very high," says VandenBerg, whose organization has moved 67 people into low-rent housing since January 2013, with nearly 90 percent leaving homelessness behind them permanently.  

VandenBerg says Well House initially discovered Odom RE-USE while looking for flooring to use in the home renovations, settling on greenish salvaged wood gymnasium flooring from one of the area schools. 

"We were looking all over for flooring for a house and finally found that Odom had this green gym floor that was wood and was just perfect – it's sleek and modern and there's still old paint from where it used to be a basketball court, so it looks really, really cool in the houses," she says, adding that the shared focus on re-use and responsible development has created a very positive dynamic between her organization and Odom Re-Use. 

"I think there's some really good synergy between us," she says. "We started using them because we needed flooring and really wanted to put in something that would last. We're really conscious of the materials we use, to the extent that we can be, so anytime we can use something that's more environmentally friendly or sustainable, we do."

Visit Odom RE-USE and Well House online or find them on Facebook for more information. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Odom RE-USE

Related articles:
Well House new development fund creates an avenue for sustainable growth

Electric Cheetah owner launches fundraising effort for renovations to new Alger Heights restaurant

Custer wraps up phase one of three in Grandville Ave. HQ renovation project

Furniture dealer Custer is known in its industry for over 30 years of innovative workplace design, so why not update its own corporate headquarters to show it? 

On the heels of completing the first in three phases of renovation at 217 Grandville Ave. SW, Chief Operations Officer Todd Custer says the remodel was inspired by the surrounding neighborhood, which has seen increasing new development in the past few years. 

"The area is becoming more of a retail location, more of a walking area, where traffic is getting a little bit heavier and they've done a good job of beautifying the street and the area around here so it's kind of up-and-coming," he says. "The entrance area and the windows...a lot of people are looking so we wanted to really show what we do and what we do well is that type of environment."

Renovations on Custer's 10,000-square-foot first floor started in late October of last year. Custer says the building was purchased by the furniture dealers in 2004, when they moved into the first and second floors and began leasing the third and fourth. 

New first floor features, including updated designs for a more flexible workplace, as well as more effective technology integration like high-definition video conference rooms and other audio-visual upgrades, are planned for phase two and three of the renovation on its second floor, as well. Phase two and three of the project are expected to begin later this month and final completion of the space will wrap up in early 2016. 

"We've got about 80 employees on the first and second (floors), but we've never really done anything from an infrastructure standpoint," Custer says. "A lot of our business is furniture but now it's also interior cabinetry and interior construction for custom applications, as well as a lot of technology integration and audio-visual solutions. We really didn't showcase a lot of the expertise we have and we wanted to really show that and do a better job of telling our story that way." 

The renovations are an effort to not only showcase the best and brightest of Custer's innovations, but also to provide a workspace for its employees that is based around an idea Custer calls "power of place." 

"It's the whole wellness aspect of your work environment and getting up and moving around and using different types of spaces and having alternative settings to go utilize, whether its more lounge type settings or sit-stand settings – it's all about mixing wellness into your space and providing an inspiring workplace." 

For more information about Custer, visit www.custeronline.com.

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Custer 

Interphase Interiors joins Heartside with new Blue35 showroom

In Randy DeBoer's opinion, Grand Rapids' Heartside District is one of the "most beautiful examples of 'renewal' in downtown Grand Rapids." 

DeBoer is president of the modern workspace/furniture dealer Interphase Interiors, which announced the opening of a new showroom location on the first floor of 35 Oakes SW with plans for a May 7 grand opening celebration.  

As the exclusive dealer for innovative furniture makers at Haworth, Interphase Interiors partnered with Haworth and Rockford Development in the creation of the downtown Grand Rapids incubator hub, MoDiv, and DeBoer says after two years watching the space thrive, Interphase knew it wanted to increase its role as part of the city's creative community.

"In our two years' experience, being down there has really showed us, I think, the type of energy that can be infused into the organization by being able to have that downtown presence," he says. "It's certainly helped increase our brand presence downtown and we just enjoy that environment."  

Also known as the Blue35 building, the eight-floor showroom at 35 Oakes SW was originally built in 1914 as the former Mertens Hotel. In an effort to maintain some of the unique, original fixtures of the 1,600-square-foot ground floor, the new Interphase Interiors showroom features Mertens Hotel original mosaic tile floors. 

"For most people, it's the first thing that catches their eye," DeBoer says. "It's an incredible floor that you just can't find anywhere else." 

With LED lighting, a ceiling grid constructed from 2x4's and a wooden wall made from recycled Interphase Interior warehouse pallet boards, DeBoer says preserving the character of the building while still representing the modern style of the brand was an important part of renovation plans with GMB Architecture.   

"We were intrigued by the idea of the history behind the space and we wanted to preserve as much of the history as possible and it really led us to focus on creating as sustainable a space as possible," he says. "We wanted to utilize as much of the existing building while still being able to use it as an example of our modern work style we can show our customers." 

He says attention to detail and small but important touches, like private office enclaves and flexible workspaces, tie history and function together to create an office and a showroom that highlights the best of both. 

"It's almost a contrast in the sense that the space itself has a very urban-industrial feel, but a lot of the product that we put in there is probably some of the most modern, edgy products from Haworth," DeBoer says. "It's almost a contrast of eras that exist in that one small space." 

For more information on Interphase Interiors, visit www.interphaseinc.com. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Interphase Interiors

Related articles: 
Haworth, INterphase to open creative design showroom in Grand Rapids' new MoDiv retail incubator 

Studio Blue brings multi-use work, retail and showroom space to heart of Grand Rapids

VDS relocates to former Feyen Zylstra stomping grounds with revamped interior

When unified communication specialist VDS opened its doors for the very first time 26 years ago, it was at 201 Front Avenue as a division of the electrical contracting company Feyen Zylstra. 

Eventually, CEO James Kress purchased VDS from Feyen Zylstra and the division began operating independently, growing into a 60-person firm in a new location at 2350 Oak Industrial Drive NW. However, when Kress learned Feyen Zylstra had relocated and the Front Avenue space was open for occupancy, VDS jumped on the opportunity to relocate back to its old stomping grounds. 

"He (Kress) always loved downtown and when Feyen Zylstra outgrew this building he said, 'We have to go back,' and he loved the history of it," says VDS' Kim Schermer of the three-story, 14,000-square-foot building at 201 Front Avenue. 

VDS moved into the space in late November 2014 after Orion Construction completed a renovation of the interior, including a new entry way, common space, board room, executive offices, stairwells, bathroom and cabling for state-of-the-art technology-based systems. 

"It's a very interesting building on the inside but it's still got the old wood beams and everything, so it's a really cool building historically speaking," Schermer says of the 1930's riverfront property. "We opened up some of the walls to make it a more collaborative space. A lot of it was cosmetic, but we were careful to keep the historic pieces that were still intact."

VDS has collaborated with technology partners that include Microsoft, Polycom and Avaya through its 26-year tenure, offering technology-based solutions geared at helping companies collaborative more effectively and efficiently while achieving maximum engagement both internally and with the customers it serves. 
"The growth going on in the downtown area right now is just huge," Schermer says, "It's the place to be; we love it." 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Orion Construction 

Related articles: 
Electrical firm Feyen Zylstra cclebrates new HQ expansion, renovation at former elementary school 

Shen Dojo Kickstarter campaign aims for $10,000 in 50 days to fund second floor build-out

After relocating from Grand Rapids' Heartside to a new space at 401 Hall St. SW one year ago, owner and instructor Dan Muschiana of the healing and martial arts studio Shen Dojo is looking toward community members to help build out his new location, hoping to raise $10,000 in 50 days through a new Kickstarter campaign

"It's always one of the challenges with start-up companies, needing some funding for growth and development into the next stages," says Muschiana, a Kendall College of Art & Design graduate who became interested in Japanese culture and the healing arts while working as a freelancer post-grad. 

"I actually learned a lot of my ability to understand education, healthcare, business, how to develop an idea and take it to fruition and how to stay focused on a project," he says. 

His plan is to use $5,000 of the $10,000 fundraising money to build out a second and third training area dedicated to community classes, public projects and one-on-one tutoring space. He also plans to equip the space with supplies for teachers and smaller tables for future Japanese language and calligraphy classes. 

Muschiana plans to invest $3,000 of the fundraising monies in new spring programs and workshops and to secure costs for the three new instructors he recently hired to lead courses at Shen Dojo.

"I've got three great new instructors from Grand Rapids and around the city with a lot of really amazing backgrounds that I think will help contribute to the team," he says. "I brought them on board so myself and another instructor who is involved with the dojo can create new programs centered around the healing arts." 

Shen Dojo's courses – which range from yoga and Tai Chi to Aikido, Uechi-Ryu Karate and Rinzai Zen Meditation – are taught with a larger notion of wellness behind each, an idea Muschiana has rallied around for a number of years while working as an instructor for wellness and healing programs in area hospitals.

With $1,000 of future fundraising money allocated for developing studies to advance local wellness initiatives for cancer patients in Grand Rapids, he says he hopes to increase his partnerships with community businesses in the medical field and beyond through meditation and healing techniques.

Muschiana points to studies done by Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, which show healthier employees involved in employee wellness programs not only pose less risk to insurance companies because of increased wellness overall, but also make up a more productive workforce and are able to provide a better level of care to patients, to boot. 

"Businesses willing to invest in their employees are going to see a really great long-term return on investment for some of these workshops," he says. "Those businesses that are innovative, willing to seek creative methods, get a little bit outside of the box in order to accomplish this and see more productivity are those that are really going to benefit, and those are the businesses I really want to connect with." 

Click here to donate to the Shen Dojo Kickstarter campaign, or find Shen Dojo on Facebook to learn more.

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Shen Dojo/Dan Muschiana

Media Place Partners celebrates 10th anniversary with office expansion and doubled business

As Media Place Partners celebrates its 10th anniversary this month, Principal Dave Kettler says the best is yet to come for the Grand Rapids media-services firm, which has doubled its business and created three new positions on staff in the past nine months already. 

"People are just finding out we're here and that we're local and have all the tools and the horsepower to handle anything they want to do," says Kettler, whose agency focuses on media consulting and strategic media planning and purchasing. "…We're leveraging our current clients to tell the story of Media Place and also over the years, we've developed a reputation for doing a good job for our clients."

To accommodate its growing team of media buying experts, MPP relocated to a larger office in Gaslight Village last October, recently expanding its floor space at 2249 Wealthy St. SE to around 1,000 square feet. 

Though MPP's clients are predominately in the markets of healthcare, grocery and higher education and operate on state- and national-level stages, Kettler says it's just as important to his agency to bring in local organizations as clients, with familiar names like Grand Rapids Ballet Co., the Grand Rapids Public Museum and the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Experience GR and Frederick Meijer Gardens on the list of those who have worked with the MPP team in the past.  

""People didn't know we we're here and we're local, so bigger buys would get moved to another town and then small- and medium-sized work didn't think they were big enough to take it to another market, but now we're doing a lot of that," Kettler says. 

He says for those medium-sized clients who don't have enough staff to manage media buys internally, having MPP manage buys from the outside allows businesses owners to focus their own company's manpower on growing their brand more efficiently and effectively. 

"It's really about time; giving people more time and the expertise on top of that to make their media dollars work faster," he says. 

He says his firm is strengthening the manpower of its own staff, looking ahead to building its next layer of employees with the addition of a few new account executives and eventually, another media buyer. Kettler says he hopes to have those new positions in place by the end of the second quarter. 

"I do think West Michigan is growing and we're filling a void that was here in the market," he says. "If we can keep it here local and service here local, everybody wins." 

For more information about Media Place Partners or careers there, visit www.mediaplacepartners.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Media Place Partners 

City Built Brewing Co. hopes to bring unique flavors to craft beer scene in GR

The first time Dave Petroelje made a batch of home-brewed beer for a larger crowd was at his sister's wedding. Since then, he's brewed and bottled for so many parties and weddings he can't keep track of them all. 

"Everyone always says, 'So when are you going to start selling stuff?' So that kind of put the idea in my head that I could go pro," says Petroelje, who started home brewing his own craft beer with roommates when he was still studying biology and geology at Calvin College. "…I decided might as well just make my own job." 

Petroelje, along with his friend of eight years and former neighbor Ed Collazo, is part of the team behind the recently announced City Built Brewing Co., which joined Harmony Brewing Co. last month for its Flower Power beer release party. 

"We're halfway to our fundraising goal, so we thought it was prudent to do an announcement that we're here," Petroelje says. "A lot of our friends have known for a while and I get asked by people all of the time how the brewery is coming along." 

The plan is to move into a 5,000-square-foot building in Monroe North, though Petroelje and Collazo aren't saying which quite yet due to some paperwork still waiting for final approval.  

However, when the funding gap is closed and the paperwork is official, he says City Built Brewing Co. will not only bring a much-needed dining option for those in the Monroe North neighborhood, but also bring a different taste sensibility to the craft beer market in Grand Rapids. 

Well read on his trade, Petroelje says craft beer's origins lie in the home-brewing movement, but over time many of those traditional styles have been replaced by mass-market, industrial type beers. 

"You go to pick any brewery, you're going to see IPA, pale ale, stout, porter – those are very ubiquitous in the craft beer theme," he says. "I'd like to do beers that are not necessarily British in origin, although we can't ignore that 40 percent of the craft beer market is IPA so we're going to have to respect the market in some ways and offer some hoppy beer."

So, with a unique beer list in place, City Built Brewing Co.'s owners are planning a Puerto Rican-inspired food menu - a nod to Collazo's family heritage and a robust pairing for the hybrid, off-beat flavors Petroelje plans to brew.

"There's only one restaurant in the neighborhood, really, at the moment, so we'll be another option for a neighborhood that does not currently have a brewery within walking distance," he says. 

To learn more about City Built Brewing Co. or to keep up with its progress toward opening day, visit the brewery here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of City Built Brewing Co.

New Sovereign Arms Tattoo Co. is a 'nice and classy tattoo shop' for East Hills neighborhood

Walls painted in subtle, warm hues complement the dark wood paneling, floors and freshly painted copper-toned tin roofing inside the newly renovated 974 Cherry St. SE storefront, now home to Sovereign Arms Tattoo Co

"I've always liked the look of old, dark wood," says Gareth Hawkins, owner of and artist at the new East Hills tattoo parlor, which he opened just last week alongside fellow artists Ryan Stout and Matt Pike. "It's classy and comfy – those are probably the two descriptors I'd use for it." 

The old, classic parlor vibe that creates the shop's interior makes a lot of sense with the art on the walls, a style which the artists describe as "turn of the century, American tattooing" and "World War II, sailor-style tattoos with a hint of Japanese influence." 

Hawkins, who is an East Hills resident, says he started apprenticing in Grand Rapids about 15 years ago, working at various tattoo shops including Mos Eisley's and Wealthy Street Tattoos, among many others. 

"I decided that after 15 years of being in this, I'm not getting any younger," Hawkins says. "I love this neighborhood, I own a home in the East Hills area and so this place came open and it's all been kind of fortuitous." 

Since Sovereign Arms Tattoo Co.'s soft opening last week Tuesday, he says they've seen a pretty steady stream of clients come through for tattoos – thanks in part to faithful clients who followed them over to the new shop, but also because of the walkability of the area surrounding the storefront, which sits directly across from Grand Rapids' oldest restaurant Cherie Inn and the East Hills fixture Marie Catrib's. 

"I've been consistently tattooing every single day, which is fantastic for a new business," Hawkins says. "I've had a lot of clients follow me over, Ryan and Matt are the two guys who followed me over, too, they have a great client base, they're great artists and great people to work with so we've managed to have a steady stream of people coming in and new people coming in off the street. The traffic in this neighborhood is fantastic for walking."

Whether it's pre-drawn and selected from an artists' collection hung on the wall of the store's modest but cozy lobby or custom-made based on a specific concept or idea brought in by a customer, Hawkins says any ink done by Sovereign Arms Tattoo Co. artists will be original, simple and timeless. 

"We're a nice and classy tattoo shop. We do solid, classy tattoos that will last you forever and that you'll be very happy with," he says. "We do good work."

To learn more about Sovereign Arms Tattoo Co. or stay updated on upcoming events for its opening, check the shop out on Facebook here.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor

Le Bon Macaron to bring a little bit of European charm to the already charming Cherry St. in May

After successfully launching her unique café in 2009 in East Lansing, owner and designer Kelly Toland of Le Bon Macaron is bringing her colorful, French-inspired pastries to East Hills. 

Set to open in May at 951 Cherry St. SE, Le Bon Macaron's new Grand Rapids location will replace the recently relocated furniture and home design retailer Hunt & Gather after its move to a shared space on Curve Street late last month. The new shop will share the space with Ginko Studios Floral Design. 

Toland says she always knew she would bring the business to Grand Rapids eventually, but was waiting patiently for the right location and the right timing to collide. 

"We've had our eye on the area for a few years; we liked going there for ourselves in general," says Toland, who has been a Grand Rapids resident since marrying her husband in 2012 and commutes to work in East Lansing each day. "The restaurant, the shops, it's a charming area and it has sort of a European feel to it with it being pedestrian and more historic."

Toland says other than bringing in the refrigeration case and other store fixtures specific to her product line, most of the remodeling continues to be largely cosmetic, with plans to finish painting the Cherry Street Le Bon Macaron's interior in the same color scheme as her East Lansing store – light greys, blushing pinks and creamy whites – and planning to tie up the French café look with bistro tables before the store's May opening. 

"I'm just excited to be a part of that community; it's a great group of small business owners," she says. "Everyone is very nice, we've met a lot of people and it's already like a family, so I think it will be great." 

Visit Le Bon Macaron online for more information about the East Lansing shop or find Le Bon Macaron on Facebook to stay updated on the progress of the upcoming Grand Rapids location. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Le Bon Macaron/Kelly Toland

GR staffing agency hopes new office space bolsters goal to change perception of industry by 2020

Just in time for winter to melt into spring, employees at Fettig watch from brand new 65-foot windows as the ice breaks up on the Grand River. That's the view from its newly remodeled 6,435-square-foot office space at 265 Leonard St. NW. 

A welcome change from its old offices in Cascade at 6151 28th Street SE, the 16-person staffing agency moved in about two weeks ago after working with Pinnacle Construction and Kentwood Office Furniture over the last four months to convert the 1960s-era space into a modern, collaborative workspace. 

"In the first couple weeks, I've noticed people using the space," says Mike Fettig, Vice President of Operations. "You're able to be a bit freer and move and not be confined to little spaces. I don't think people want to work in just one little chair anymore; there's a lot more flexibility." 

Fettig says the new space, designed to have an "industrial loft feel," has a lot of open seating near the large windows overlooking the Grand River, with a multi-purpose room that can be used as a large conference room space or a gathering space, complete with a couch, television and café-style seating. There are also open-style interview pods and a video training room. 

Another draw for Fettig is the proximity to Rapid bus lines, which it didn't have at its old location. 

"For the applicants coming in, I see their faces looking around and thinking, 'Wow, that looks really nice.' We care about our applicants and the people we're placing," Fettig says. "It partners well with our culture and now we have a space that reflects that."  

Fettig says this is the third time the company has expanded its office space since President Kim Fettig bought the agency and rebranded from its former name, Ameritemp Staffing, in 2007. He says Fettig has grown around 600 percent over the past eight years, hiring 450 people into full-time, permanent job positions over the last year. 

"I believe the reason for the growth has been our focus on finding the right people for our customers," Fettig says. "A lot of our industry has focused on filling those with temporary positions and not focusing on what is primarily temp-to-hire positions."

He says Fettig's goal is to change the perception of staffing agencies in West Michigan by 2020, and he thinks the agency is up to the challenge. 

"I want to change the perception of people who haven't wanted to work for staffing companies," he says. "I know we have good jobs and partner with good companies that care about people."

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Fettig

Woosah looks to Kickstarter campaign to build out S. Division retail space and printshop

Erica Lang says she's been checking her Kickstarter campaign religiously since it went up earlier this month, knowing that in order to meet her $15,000 fundraising goal by April 4 and keep the nearly $8,000 currently in the campaign's bank , she'll have to raise the remainder over the next 15 days. 

"It's a lot of pressure," she says, but worth a shot for the Grand Rapids artist and Kendall College of Art & Design graduate, who will use the money to build out her new work-retail space at 131 S. Division Avenue, the future home of Woosah Outfitters & Printshop

"I've just kind of been outgrowing my current situation and just felt it in my gut that now is the time to take this next step," says Lang, who has done freelance work for Harmony Brewing Co., Patagonia and Finistene to name a few. "I'm really excited to bring printmaking to the everyday person. You don't have to go to college and take all of the classes and get a degree in printing to do it." 

Lang says since graduating last May, she's accumulated almost everything she needs for a print shop on her own, but still needs a little help raising the funds to build retail fixtures like clothing racks, tables and the check-out counter, as well as a separate room for inventory and shipping and a few materials for printmaking workshops she plans to hold there once the space is officially open. 

She's currently operating out of the community printshop Dinderbeck, but says she's already signed the lease for the 1,875-square-foot space on S. Division's Avenue for the Arts and is excited to be a part of a community that champions creativity as a lifestyle. 

"I think it's really cool to be within that community of people because we all have a similar passion in doing what we love for a living and educating others about the arts," she says. "It's really cool because that community is so active and is constantly hosting events to get more people to come downtown, which is also really good for that area of town because it's just now starting to become an area people feel comfortable walking around in and visiting the different stores." 

Pledges for Lang's Kickstarter campaign for Woosah Outfitters & Printshop range anywhere from $5 to $1,800 and can earn contributors a whole array of different combinations of Lang's product line, which are simple, nostalgic designs she says are inspired by Michigan's natural beauty, long hikes in Saugatuck and the "things in nature that make you realize how small you are, that kind of humble you; the overall feeling you get from those experiences and that excitement you get with a new adventure." 

To help Lang bring Woosah Outfitters & Printshop to Grand Rapids' Avenue for the Arts, donate to her Kickstarter campaign here before April 4. To learn more about Woosah Outfitters and see some of Lang's designs, visit www.spreadingthewoosah.com or find Woosah Outfitters here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Erica Lang/Woosah Outtifters & Printshop

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Slow down, be present, connect with nature: That's Woosah 

Hunt & Gather brings modern-vintage feel to new retail-workspace in renovated warehouse

After celebrating with an open house reception that boasted foot traffic of over 350 people, Hunt & Gather has officially opened for business in a renovated warehouse space at 740 Curve St. SW. 

Kelley Howley is owner and interior designer at the "modern-vintage" inspired furniture retailer and shares Hunt & Gather's new 5,000-square-foot space with artist Jeff Kraus. The two are kicking up the collaborative workspace concept a notch to create a sort of retail-design-showroom-gallery hybrid that still has a clean and simple feeling, thanks to the pair's shared aesthetic sensibility.  

"When I was thinking of expanding, I knew I wanted to have more of a collaborative space, and he was one of the first people I thought of," Howley says, adding that she and Kraus signed the lease in November and did all of the renovations – which involved more than 100 sheets of drywall and dozens of gallons of paint – by themselves throughout January and February before it opened this month.

Howley says she started to think more seriously about moving from her Cherry Street storefront last summer, when she realized her growing customer base wasn't necessarily the people who stumbled into Hunt & Gather to browse, but rather a younger, more creatively-inclined demographic that used social media, in large part, to engage with her brand differently than before. 

"Obviously social media plays such a big role in businesses now, especially creative businesses," says Howley, who also used the transition between locations as an opportunity to set new store hours that essentially change Hunt & Gather's business model.

"For me, my biggest bottleneck with retail is time," she says. "My husband and I do everything ourselves – both retail and design – so everything else we have to do outside sales is after-hours."

For example, when she is working with a customer to find the perfect piece for their home and it ends up being in a Chicago storefront, Howley has to drive there and transport it back to her store without any major interruptions to her regular workday. So, in order to get those unique, one-of-a-kind furnishings that she knows her customers come to Hunt & Gather looking for, she can't be a full time salesperson - she had to embrace the designer, too. 

"If we were strictly a retail store, there's no reason we should have ever had to leave Cherry Street; it's a traditional shopping experience," she says. " But, because a big part of what we do is find items for customers, I just wanted to find a space that would better highlight our design services and…kind of use a new (business) model to give myself a little bit more time so I can provide a way better service for my customers because it means I'm out more, I'm shopping more, bringing more things back – instead of having one dresser available in the shop, you'll have five dressers available." 

Now, Hunt & Gather will be open Monday-Thursday by appointment only, with weekend hours for the retail space on Fridays from 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. 

"We really wanted to set ourselves apart and be an actual brand," Howley says. "For us, we really wanted the space to be a clean canvas. I wanted it to be a place where I could have a blank slate each week to create new designs and do more of those behind-the-scenes things… I've been there for two months like every single day, but it didn't hit me until Sunday how beautiful it is and that it has come such a long way."

For more information, check out Hunt & Gather on Facebook or visit its website here

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Hunt & Gather
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